When has there ever been a week of Premiership football where a manager or player hasn’t in some way or another criticised a referee or linesman? Personally, I cannot remember a Sunday morning when I have been going through newspaper match reports and reading how well every single referee and assistant performed.
So, why are we being exposed to so many negative opinions and critiques of officials’ performances? It could be assumed that the increased media access, coverage, and technological improvements prevalent with modern football explain this. However, there is another, more worrying theory; that the standard of refereeing is dropping.
Certain Chelsea players will be the first to back support this, following the allegations that official Mark Clattenburg racially abused John Obi Mikel in Chelsea’s match against Manchester United. Whilst this isn’t necessarily an indictment of decision-making quality, if true, it does mean that the quality of refereeing behaviour has declined too.
…officials and assistants are only human…
Whilst many football fans understand that officials and assistants are only human and make decisions in real-time without the aid of slow-motion replays, their frustration is easily understood when wrong decisions cost their team vital points or progression in cup ties.
For example, we can all remember the anger felt as a nation when Frank Lampard’s shot against Germany in the 2010 World Cup was deemed not to have crossed the line, when replays clearly showed otherwise. Many will also remember how Graham Poll farcically issued Croatia’s Simunic three yellow cards in one game at the 2006 World Cup.
…a tough choice…
If this is the refereeing standard fans can expect to see at the world’s biggest single-event sporting competition, then what chance do fans of domestic teams have in seeing perfectly-officiated games every week?
This ultimately leaves fans, managers, players and FA members with a tough choice: do they simply accept that referees are not and will never be perfect and are likely to make wrong decisions, or do they actively pursue change, such as the introduction of goal-line technology, in an attempt to make football as fair and flawless as possible?
…the amount of criticism referees receive should be controlled…
Unfortunately, it is not for me to say what direction the FA should take, however I do believe the amount of criticism referees receive should be controlled and reduced. If it isn’t then perhaps one day we will see referees criticising second-rate performances of managers and players after boring, pedestrian matches. You have been warned, Mark Hughes.